The St. Louis Cardinals have a variety of young talent up and down the roster, along with some bad contracts. As the end of spring training nears, now is a great time to extend players and keep their distance from others.
The Cardinals have not been shy in previous years when it comes to handing out extensions to their star players during spring training. Some have been great additions to the team, others, not so much.
St. Louis is in a unique position this year to either bank on some of their young players, or lock up reliable veterans that have been part of the rotation in recent years. From Miles Mikolas and Jordan Montgomery to Drew VerHagen and Chris Stratton, there is a mix of players deserving and not deserving of an extension.
Of the players least deserving of an extension, VerHagen and Stratton are perhaps the most obvious pending free agents to avoid handing out the extra term to. However, the Cardinals should also be skeptical of handing out an extension to reliever Jordan Hicks.
Hicks was one of the first players in baseball to throw over 100 miles per hour consistently. He was a unicorn out of the bullpen for St. Louis. Fast forward three years and every team has multiple arms throwing triple digits.
2019 was a coming-out party for Hicks as he posted his best season as a major leaguer. He recorded 14 saves for the Cardinals, but injuries would begin a common trend for the 26-year-old as he only saw action in 29 games.
Last year, he was limited to 35 appearances in the majors. He began the season in the starting rotation, and the failed experiment quickly brought him back to the bullpen. He made eight starts in 2022 and finished the season with a 3-6 record and a 4.84 ERA.
Hicks is just too inconsistent for the Cardinals to offer him any extension. He is entering a pivotal season in his career, as he will have to prove his worth not just to the Cardinals, but to the other 29 teams that might be interested in signing him when he becomes a free agent for the first time.
Jordan Walker is deserving of an extension
On the other hand, there are a variety of young players who could get into the conversation of a long-term extension. From Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman, and Brandon Donovan, St. Louis is not lacking young talent.
The pinnacle of that talent rests on the shoulders of Jordan Walker. One of the best prospects in baseball has broken out in the Cardinals organization this spring and is more than worthy of an extension.
Despite never playing in a major league game, Walker has shown he can hold his own against major league pitching. He has been proving it all preseason after manager Oli Marmol placed him at the top of the lineup during spring games.
Walker rose through the ranks of the Cardinals' minor league system last year and even made the transition to the outfield due to St. Louis' MVP-caliber third basemen Nolan Arenado.
He finished the year with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs while adding 22 stolen bases in 2022 at AA in Springfield. Now, in spring training, he is pushing the envelope for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
An extension for a prospect of the caliber of Walker is not uncommon. Arizona Diamondbacks star Corbin Carroll was just given a massive extension from Arizona after appearing in just 21 games last season at the majors.
Giving Walker an extension at this point in his career would be unheard of for the Cardinals' organization. Though it would signal a radical movement toward a younger roster than many fans would welcome.